Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to Trigger the Machine

Consider this a public service announcement for women.

I went for my annual physical this afternoon.

There are certainly advantages to having a physician who is associated with a medical school. You have access to the latest in medical science as well as the latest in medical technology. I now have "my file" through which all my university physicians communicate with me and with each other. Think of us as one big family all focussed on "my" health. My internist knows my gynecologist who knows my dermatologist who knows my ENT doc. They call themselves "my" team.

It's annoying as hell. I keep getting little emails and messages from them asking how I'm feeling, if I'm taking my vitamins and reminders to get my flu shot.

To be honest, I liked it better when they sent a postcard that simply said "your mammogram was fine" or "call us next year for another pap smear."

But now, of course, we have HIPAA--the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act--to protect our privacy. No more of that signing up on a list when you arrive at the doctor's office. Someone else might see your name. No more postcards; we can't have the mailman knowing you have healthy breasts.

When my internist asked me if I had any complaints, I told her I've been feeling unusually fatigued lately.

Until the last year, I've never had any problems with sleeping. I fall asleep in less than ten minutes (usually five) and sleep for exactly six hours. If I fall asleep at ten, I wake up at four. If I fall asleep at eleven, I wake up at five. If I fall asleep at midnight (my usual bedtime), I wake up at six.

While my sleeping patterns experienced some disruption last year, my six-hour pattern reasserted itself during the last three months--with one difference. I've been unusually tired during the day lately. At first, I attributed it to stress; after all, I was trying to get my manuscript off to my editor, and I was filled with anxiety.

To compensate for the tiredness, I began forcing myself to sleep seven and eight hours at night.

It didn't help. So I adjusted my eating habits to avoid caffeine or sugar that might have a boomerang effect on me later in the day. Nothing seemed to make a difference, and I made an appointment with my internist.

I like my internist very much. She's an attractive young African-American woman who listened to me carefully. She asked a LOT of questions. Then she told me that women's symptom of heart disease are very different from men's symptoms. Women's symptoms--an overwhelming fatigue, dizziness and nausea--are often chalked up to stress and ignored by mostly male physicians accustomed to the male symptoms of tightness in the chest, arm pain, and shortness of breath.

I told her that I'd had a couple of spells of dizziness two years ago that had been chalked up to "benign positional vertigo."

She did a complete physical, a urine test, blood tests, and an EKG. She scheduled me for an electrocardiogram and a stress test. But, what really took me aback was that she enrolled me in a sleep study. She wants me to go to this place where they'll monitor me overnight to insure that my breathing patterns remain normal during sleep.

Gee whiz. Just what I've always wanted. To drive to a study room at ten P.M. so a bunch of post docs and graduate students can watch me sleep.

I'll let you know what happens.


Marie Tuhart said...


I'm glad your doctor took you seriously. As for the sleep study, I wouldn't worry about it. My brother has gone through one of those, it's mainly to make sure you don't stop breathing while you're sleeping.

I'm sure everything will be fine.


Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Marie. I appreciate the vote of support. My biggest fear is that I won't be able to sleep with all these folk observing.

Emjay said...

The domestic partner can fall asleep completely upright, holding a book.

I, on the other hand, must be in an exact position with the preferred pillow and all conditions correct.

I've always wondered how anyone could go to sleep for a sleep study.

Surely they can't give one harmful drugs...that would probably interfere with the study.

Keep us posted on how it goes. But fatigue is an important symptom that we usually ignore because we justify it by what's goin' on in our lives, and you've had a lot goin' on.

I'm glad you checked it out and have your very own Team.

Yeah, Team!